Google, Sanofi-backed group offering grants for women in health IT

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Health IT is a largely male-dominated field that hasn't always made it easy for female entrepreneurs to get ahead. (ACCA)

A group of partners including Google and Sanofi is putting an unspecified amount of money on the table to help women enter the health IT industry. The group, Women & Access to Health Daring Circle, put out a call for applications Thursday to advance health IT startups and solutions developed by women.

The application is aimed at accelerating women's entry into an often male-dominated field. Winners will receive an undisclosed amount of funding, six months of mentoring from Daring Circle's partners, increased visibility and networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs in the industry.

In addition, the partners hope the funding can help target health IT solutions for women's health—a category that too often goes overlooked.

“We not only want to raise awareness on women’s access to health parity, but also further understand how tech is contributing to real solutions—and help start-ups scale their impact in a concrete way,” Daring Circle said in a statement.

The group identified six barriers to women's health parity, and said it would be looking for applications that targeted those factors. They are:

  1. Lack of healthcare providers informed by sex-disaggregated research
  2. Barriers to accessing mental healthcare
  3. Limited awareness and access to information
  4. Limited physical access to care
  5. Lack of confidential or reliable health records
  6. Lack of means to pay for care

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While entrepreneurs are certainly working on these issues, the health IT community hasn't been especially encouraging. Women in the industry say they face regular discrimination and discouragement when advancing their careers.

"There have been key moments when being a woman was not an advantage," Julie Hall-Barrow, senior vice president of network development and innovation at Children's Health in Dallas, told Healthcare IT News. "In the male-dominated field, it took bold statements to many of our vendors to make sure they understood who was making the decisions ... many times they would want to defer to the IT lead who was usually male versus listening to me."

Daring Circle also includes AXA, BNP Paribas, RB, Gavi and the Vaccine Alliance. Applications are due Feb. 15.